The Autobiography of Ashley Bowen (1728-1813)
  • Publication Date: August 8, 2006
  • ISBN: 9781551117812 / 1551117819
  • 140 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Autobiography of Ashley Bowen (1728-1813)

  • Publication Date: August 8, 2006
  • ISBN: 9781551117812 / 1551117819
  • 140 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The first American sailor known to write his own autobiography, Ashley Bowen remains a valuable storyteller who can speak to today’s readers about the maritime world in the age of sail. Ashley Bowen began his seafaring career at the age of eleven. After leaving the sea, Bowen spent the rest of his days as a ship-rigger in Marblehead, Massachusetts. A witness to significant historical events, including the British conquest of Canada and the American Revolution, Ashley Bowen confounds today’s audience with his eighteenth-century interpretation of events—an interpretation informed by his deeply religious beliefs and his suspicion of Yankee patriotism.

The Broadview edition is the first to present the story of Ashley Bowen as a continuous narrative. Vickers’ introduction provides the context for Bowen’s life in colonial New England, and additional writings by Ashley Bowen and his Marblehead contemporaries are included. The appendices include Bowen’s diary accounts of his experiences in the 1759 British expedition against Quebec, smallpox epidemics, and the American Revolution.


“Thanks to Daniel Vickers and Broadview Press for making Ashley Bowen’s Diary and Journals so readily accessible. Heretofore only available to scholars working in research libraries, The Autobiography of Ashley Bowen can now become essential reading in undergraduate Early American, Atlantic, and maritime history courses.” — Robert A. McCaughey, Columbia University

“Daniel Vickers’ masterful treatment of Ashley Bowen’s journals gives us the best look into colonial maritime life to date. Bowen’s meticulous journal entries combined with Vickers’ editorial technique makes this an invaluable resource for scholars and maritime enthusiasts alike.” — Joshua M. Smith, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

The Autobiography of Ashley Bowen is an essential source for anyone interested in maritime history. Daniel Vickers provides an excellent introduction that places Bowen in the larger context of Atlantic history. The maps, notes, and appendices are a treasure trove of information.” — Jerry Bannister, Dalhousie University

Ashley Bowen: A Brief Chronology

The Autobiography of Ashley Bowen (1728–1813)

Appendix A: Ashley Bowen, “Courtship of Dorothy Chadwick”

Appendix B: Ashley Bowen, Journal Entries Relating to the Seven Years War and the Expedition Against Quebec, 1759

  1. Voyage to Quebec
  2. Quebec Campaign
  3. Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Capture of Quebec

Appendix C: Smallpox

  1. Ashley Bowen, “A Memorandum of the Smallpox from the First Discovery at Marblehead, 1773”
  2. Ashley Bowen, Journal Entries on the Smallpox Epidemic and Inoculation Controversy (1773–74)
  3. Excerpts from the Essex Gazette Relating to the Smallpox Epidemic and Inoculation Controversy (1773–74)
  4. Ashley Bowen, Journal Entries Relating to the Smallpox Epidemic (1777)
  5. Ashley Bowen, Journal Entries on Minding the Smokehouse During the Smallpox Epidemic (1792)

Appendix D: Ashley Bowen, Journal Entries During the American Revolution

  1. The Coercive Acts Take Effect (1774)
  2. Lexington and Concord (1775)
  3. Bunker Hill (1775)
  4. Benedict Arnold’s Attack on Quebec (1775–76)
  5. Two Weeks in the War (1776)
  6. Campaign in the Middle Colonies (1776–77)
  7. Religion and Revolution in Marblehead

Appendix E: Personal Writings of Ashley Bowen

  1. Poetry
    1. On Smallpox
    2. On Revolution and Religion
    3. On Marriage
  2. Dreams

Appendix F: Contemporary Accounts of Marblehead

  1. Reverend John Barnard (1714–66)
  2. Alexander Hamilton (1744)
  3. Francis Goelet (1750)
  4. Ensign Francis Williams (1775)
  5. Robert Honyman (1775)
  6. Francisco de Miranda (1784)
  7. George Washington (1789)

Appendix G: Miscellaneous Writings

  1. Journal of Elizabeth Bowen Martin
  2. Letter from Nathan Bowen to Ashley Bowen (24 May 1757)
  3. From the Boston News-Letter and New England Chronicle (10 March 1763)
  4. From a Letter from Ashley Bowen to the Reverend William Bentley (14 May 1807)
  5. From William Bentley’s Diary
  6. Ashley Bowen’s Obituary, Essex Register (6 February 1813)

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Daniel Vickers is Head of the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850 (1994) and, with Vince Walsh, Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail (2005).